Discover bedtime routine tips to help your toddler drift off quicker and happier every night.
Family,  Routine,  Self

14 Bedtime Routine Tips to Help Your Toddler Go to Sleep

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Every family needs a great bedtime routine, so I’ve compiled a list of my best tips and products to help you get your littles to bed faster, smoother, and happier than ever before.

 

A Great Bedtime Routine Starts With a Few Intentional Decisions

When I was pregnant with my youngest, my husband and I made the decision that our two girls would share a room.

While that decision (for the most part) has been wonderful, it’s definitely come with some challenges! The biggest has been bedtime.

I mean, getting a toddler to bed is enough of a circus, but let’s just throw a baby into the mix and enjoy all the tears. 

My husband likes to call it our “chorus of pixies.”

Anyway, as the little one got old enough to move into her crib, we had to figure out how we were going to tackle bedtime with both girls in the same room with different bedtimes. 

We already had a bedtime routine established for my toddler, so it was really just a matter of adjusting her routine a bit and making a few intentional decisions about timing and where the majority of her routine would take place.

For example, before the girls started sharing a room, story time took place in her room and in her bed, but we’ve had to move story time out to the living room.

Small decisions have made big impacts on our bedtime routines, but if you aren’t intentional about your child’s bedtime routine, they will run you ragged.

And you need your evenings, mama, to take care of yourself.

So look through this list, make some decisions, commit to them, and win your evening back!

 

Our Evenings Look Something Like This

When we were just doing bedtime routine for one, her routine looked like this:

  • Jammies
  • Brush Teeth
  • Stories with Mom and Dad
  • Nursing
  • Put in the crib awake
  • Fall asleep on her own

Now that we have two, it looks a little more like this:

  • Littlest is in fresh diaper, jammies, and sleep sack, and then nursed and put to bed around 6

(By the way, the Love to Dream sleep sack is my absolute favorite swaddle that I used for both my girls!)

  • Dinner at 6:15/6:30 with dad and toddler
  • Bath time for toddler with mom at 7:30 – We almost always allow plenty of time to play and splash
  • Jammies, potty time, pull up
  • Story time with dad, medicine, and brush teeth 7:45-8:15 (I usually sit down to work a little at this time)
  • Hugs, kisses and bonding time with Mama and Daddy for a few minutes
  • 8:15 Dad tells a story to toddler in bed
  • Bedtime

Overall, our routine allows our littlest to get a couple hours of sleep in before our toddler gets in her big girl bed.

Great bedtime routine tips to help you get your toddler to sleep.

Why You Need to Have a Bedtime Routine for the Kids

There are so many benefits to having a deliberate and intentional night time routine for your kids, but here are my top 4:

1) Kids need and crave structure

Structure gives kids a sense of security. When they know what to expect, they develop a confidence in themselves.

Routine allows kids to grow and expand within the confines of the expected.

And just like you and I look forward to the moment our heads hit the pillow, kids need to know when that moment is going to happen for them, too (although they may not look forward to it quite like we do!).

2) Establish healthy sleep habits for them

Just as we need to be taught how to speak, walk, and socialize, we also need to be taught healthy sleep habits.

Think about yourself for just a moment. Do you stay up too late with your nose buried in your phone? Do you toss and turn half the night because your mind is too restless? Have you taken the time to set up a night time routine for yourself? 

Be honest – do you have healthy sleep habits? And do you really want to battle kids that don’t have healthy sleep habits?

Take on the challenge to create healthier sleep habits for your entire family. You’ll probably all be a little happier for it.

3) Allows you and your spouse to have some quiet time before bed

A few months after my oldest daughter was born, my husband and I struggled to find any quiet time together sans baby. It wasn’t until a few months after that, that we finally learned how to establish some healthy sleep habits for her and found some quiet time for us to reconnect.

Related: 8 Ways to Connect With Your Husband After Bringing Home Baby

You and your spouse need time to together without the kids. This is the season of life that you have to truly put in the effort to keep your marriage strong.

The work you put in now can help your marriage thrive later. 

So, do the work.

Establish a bedtime routine for the kids.

Connect with your spouse.

4) Gives you a “finish line” to work toward

Because let’s face it, we all need to check out at the end of the day.

There will be days that you’ve been peed on, rained on, and spit up on. Your toddler will finger paint with her poo. Your baby will need to be held constantly. You’ll be overwhelmed. Stressed. Touched out.

You need a finish line, mama. 

Learn how to create a smoother bedtime routine and get your evenings back!

Bedtime Routine Tips

First, I want to say I understand that every home is not the typical mom + dad + baby situation. You may be a single mom who has to do it all on her own. You may live with your parents. Or you may have a spouse that doesn’t help with the kids. There are millions of different scenarios, and regardless of the situation you find yourself in, I hope you can still glean some help from these tips.

Get some fresh air

Regardless of the weather, getting a few minutes of fresh air each day will help your kids (and you!) rest better at night.

So bundle up, grab a raincoat, or slather on some sunscreen and get out there!

(Added benefit: Your kids will have a chance to run off some of that crazy extra energy!)

Have a good nap routine

A good night’s sleep for little ones begins with good rest during the day.

As adults, we know that if we stay up all day we’ll sleep well at night, but that’s not the case for little ones!

Sufficient naps lead to better rest come bedtime, so be sure to prioritize naptime!

Here’s a handy chart to help you determine how much naptime your child needs.

Keep an early bedtime

An early bedtime will allow your child to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, which in turn, leads to a happier kid the next day (Overtired kids are so grumpy!). 

Think that a 10:00 bedtime means they’ll sleep in until 9 am (even though they usually wake up at 6)? WRONG. Chances are they’ll still wake at the same time they always do, only now they’ll wake up already tired and grumpy. Womp womp.

On the other hand, having your child asleep by 7 pm doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be up by 4 am. Most children wake at the same time every day, so getting a few extra hours in at the beginning of the night leads to a more well-rested child.

Consistency is key

Try to do the same thing every night, even down to the words you say.

Consistency and predictability help kids know exactly what’s coming next, which gives them the security and comfort they need to relax and rest.

When your bedtime routine consists of the same items each night in the same order, you’ll find that the tears and fights start to diminish.

Be strategic

When you have a set bedtime for the kiddos, be strategic in the planning of your day.

Have an idea of when naptime needs to be in order for the kids to go down at bedtime.

Know when you’re going to cook, eat dinner, and do bath time.

Have nighttime duties set and ready to go (for example, I bathe my toddler, but her daddy brushes her teeth and reads stories with her).

Try to be home each night in time to get the kids to bed at their set bedtime.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever be out past bedtime, but try to respect your kid’s sleep schedule as much as you can.

They’ll be happier, and you will be, too.

Tag team (if possible)

If your situation allows, have dad participate in the bedtime routine.

Not only will it give you a hand, but it will also encourage bonding between your spouse and kids.

Try designating duties (bath time, brushing teeth, story time, etc.), or trade off duties each night.

Figure out what works for you and stick with it.

Reduce or eliminate screen/tv time

Screen time in the hours leading up to bedtime delays bedtime, stimulates their brains, and reduces the amount of sleep your children get.

Instead, try using the time leading up to bedtime for play, reading books, connecting, and enjoying their bedtime routine.

Check out this post on why screen time before bed is bad for children.

Figure out a bedtime routine that works for your family.

Keep it low-key

Try to refrain from getting the kids too hyped up right before bed.

Keep the lights dim, sounds soft, and create an atmosphere that promotes relaxation and calmness.

My favorite products to achieve this kind of atmosphere can be found below.

Connect

Toddlers deal with a lot of emotions in the day, so allowing them to have time to connect with mom and dad helps them to grow emotionally and give them a stable, secure ending to their day.

Ask them questions, let them talk about their day, and let them know that you love them.

Be a little silly.

Speak affirmations to them.

Connect.

Read with them

Let me repeat: Read with them!

Read them stories, ask them questions, point out things, explain emotions, practice counting, identify colors…

Open a book and dig in with your child! 

Not only does this help develop your child’s speech and language development, it promotes bonding and a sense of security.

Related: 19 Easy Ways to Boost Your Child’s Speech Development

Tell them a story

Use characters and animals they’re interested in, settings they’re familiar with, and actions they are learning (using the potty, feeding the dogs, helping mama).

Telling stories to your kids will help grow their imagination.

Use it as an opportunity to reinforce values or skills you’re trying to teach your children.

Create stories about kindness, sharing, and honesty, as well as silly stories and daring stories.

Having trouble coming up with a story? Simply take the plot of one of your childhood favorites and retell it in your own words (and with your child as the main character)!

Teach them to sleep on their own

I’m sure this is a hot button subject, buuuuuuuut…. I’m going to dive in anyway.

We are not born knowing how to fall asleep by ourselves.

For 9 months, a child is carried inside, warm, secure, and in constant proximity to another beating heart.

After birth, that child is usually kept close to mama and the same heartbeat they’ve been with for 9 months. (I know this is not always the case. I’m speaking in a general sense, so please be kind!)

For a baby’s first few months they continue to be kept close to a caregiver, and then all of the sudden they are expected to sleep alone in a bassinet or crib.

What?

I don’t know about you, but I’m nearly 30 and have a hard time sleeping alone when my husband isn’t home. How can we expect babies to just know how to sleep alone?

I think one of the best things you can do for a child is teach them how to fall asleep on their own.

**I am not telling you to put your baby in a crib and let them cry themselves out.** 

There are gentle methods of teaching your child to fall asleep, and I urge you to look into them once your child is old enough.

**If you don’t agree with this point, that’s okay. You do you, mama.**

Learn their routines and habits

If you know your toddler is going to get up 3 minutes after you leave the room to ask for water, anticipate that. The more you know to expect, the less frustrated you’ll be.

Use trial and error to work out a system that helps limit the number of walks back to bed you’ll do each night.

Potty before bed, take a sip of water, give an extra hug… anticipate those needs before you leave the room.

Stay calm, firm, consistent, and patient. Remember they are little

It’s so easy to get frustrated at bedtime. We all just want them to go. to. bed. 

Just remember that they are trying to figure things out. When you’re little, you just want to play. Winding down can be hard. Being still is even harder.

They will do things that don’t make sense. They’ll goof off. They’ll do the exact opposite of what you want them to do.

Mama, be patient. Be loving. Be kind.

Don’t let anger be the last thing they experience before they drift off. Let it be love.

Easy, actionable tips to help improve your bedtime routine for your little ones.

Looking for more tips? Check out these posts:

Toddler Life: Secrets to Sleep

Ideas for Helping Kids With Daily Routines

How to Create a Bedtime Routine for a Baby

 

Actions to include in your bedtime routine

Pick out the essentials, like putting on jammies and brushing teeth, and then add in a couple more.

Try to keep bedtime routine short and sweet. Allow enough time for your child to wind down, but don’t let it drag on too long.

After you figure out what works for you and your kiddos, stick to your routine.

  • Bathtime
  • Put on jammies, sleep sack, or swaddle
  • Brush teeth
  • Read books
  • Pray
  • Listen to music or sing a song
  • Last bottle or breastfeeding
  • Have a chat
  • Say affirmations
  • Baby massage
  • Rock
  • Prep room for bedtime (turn on sound machine/projector, choose stuffed animals, turn on night light)
  • Say goodnight to items in room (“Night night books, night night light, night night changing table…”)
  • Goodnight phrase (“Night night, it’s time to sleep. I love you.”)

 

It All Comes Down to Consistency

Whether you utilize all of these tips or only one or two, it all comes down to consistency. Daily actions are what build habits, and those habits are what bring us all security and comfort.

Help your child build the habits they need in order for them to have a smooth, tear-free bedtime routine.

Need some help keeping track of your new bedtime routine? Looking for ways to build some great bedtime habits? That’s why I created a Habit Tracker to help you live more intentionally.

Click here to get your Habit Tracker today for FREE!

What are your best bedtime routine tips? I’d love to know!

 

 

Favorite Bedtime Routine Accessories

For Bathtime

Johnson’s Bedtime Bath Soap and Lotion

Johnson’s No More Tangles Extra Conditioning Shampoo

Johnson’s No More Tangles Detangling Spray

For Night Time Potty Training

Pull-Ups Night-Time Potty Training Pants

Fisher-Price Custom Comfort Potty Training Seat

For Bedtime

MyBaby, SoundSpa Lullaby Sound Machine & Projector

Choose From 6 Soothing Sounds & Nursery Lullabies | Rotating Picture Projector & 3 Image Disks | Convenient Disk Storage & Auto-Off Timer

Angelcare Sound and Movement Monitor

Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor

VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor

Up to 1,000 ft of Range, Vibrating Sound-Alert, Talk Back Intercom & Night Light Loop

The best bedtime routine tips to help you get your toddler down easier, faster, and happier than ever before.

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